Losing to Mary Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012 was not the ending Head Women's Lacrosse Coach Brooke O'Brien and her team had been hoping for. With redemption in mind, the Washington and Lee women's lacrosse team can count on the proven talents of returners and a solid group of first-years to make the 25th year of W&L women's lacrosse the best yet.
"Following the disappointment of the short NCAA run last season the team has developed a new will to win and will to work," commented O'Brien. "We have toiled through a difficult off-season as a team and have emerged as a more united and committed group. We are driven to redeem ourselves and are determined to make this season one of our most successful ever."
O'Brien contributes this new will to the upperclassmen, specifically the three captains in senior defender Caroline Kingsbery, junior midfielder Meade Brewster and junior defender Olive Waxter. They will each serve as important figures in guiding the 13 first-year members.
"Our three captains are very different people, but I believe that's what creates the strength of the group," said O'Brien. "They all work extremely hard on the field and are all people who have earned this honor from their teammates."
Kingsbery enters her final season as a three-year letterwinner. Over her career, she started 32 games with 51 appearances and helped the Generals' back third finish in the top 25 in goals-against average in Division III each season.
"CK is one of the toughest people on our team," said O'Brien. "She loves the team, the program and the University and it shows in her play."
A Second Team All-ODAC selection in 2012, Brewster returns as the team's second-leading scorer after recording 31 goals and handing out seven assists. She also collected 33 ground balls, 22 draw controls and 14 caused turnovers at midfield.
"Meade entered this season fit and ready to go," O'Brien commented. "She is focused on helping the team achieve its goals, and I'm glad her teammates recognize this focus. She has the opportunity to have a very special year."
Waxter started 13 games for the defense last season, and earned Third Team All-ODAC honors after picking up 23 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers and seven draw controls.
"Olive has always been a key player despite her many battles through injuries," O'Brien remarked. "I think the respect from her teammates comes from the way she handled those injuries. She's a tough kid and will run through a brick wall for this team."
With confidence in the team's leadership, O'Brien raised the bar on her expectations for this season: Advance to the NCAA quarterfinals to battle for a spot in the Final Four. Although the goal is grand, O'Brien's philosophy on preparation will remain the same.
"Our aim as coaches and as a team is to make practices harder than games," commented O'Brien. "We will approach each game the same way – focused on process goals small like eliminating turnovers, shooting well, picking up ground balls and winning draw controls. When we focus on taking care of these details, the outcomes generally go our way."
Practices will be competitive because of the level of talent the Generals return this season. Among the returnees are seven starters and four all-conference selections, along with three of their top five scorers from last year.
The senior class of Kingsbery and attacker Ashley Barnes may be small, but O'Brien recognizes the duo's full potential. As members of three ODAC Championship teams, they bring great experience to the group.
"Ashley and CK have seen a lot over their four years and they know what they have to do to be able to create the success they desire," commented O'Brien.
Barnes enters the field for her seventh varsity season after also playing field hockey for three years. Over her lacrosse career, she appeared in 42 games with 10 starts, tallying 21 goals, five assists, 58 draw controls, 16 ground balls and nine caused turnovers.
"Ashley is another key person to our team in terms of leadership and experience," said O'Brien. "The dual-sport experience created an intelligent competitor and we expect her to pass along that acquired knowledge to her teammates."
Leading the team in ground balls (49) and caused turnovers (32) a season ago, Stone started all 20 games en route to being named First Team All-ODAC, first team all-state and second team all-region.
Klein is back as the leading returning scorer from 2012, netting 35 goals and notching 10 assists in 19 starts. Hagen recorded 27 points (22 g, 5 a) in 13 starts and Lavin collected 17 points (12 g, 5 a) in 20 appearances.
"The juniors are a large, talented class and they will absolutely be key to our team this year," remarked O'Brien. "Their health and commitment to seeing this season through to the very last day is going to be what drives us."
The sophomore class may have just one year under their belt, but the group saw plenty of playing time last season and will have a significant role in this season's success.
Goalkeeper Cara Mulligan transitioned to the collegiate scene well during her rookie season, finishing the year ranked 15th in Division III with a 7.97 goals-against average. She also recorded 100 saves en route to collecting Second Team All-ODAC accolades.
"Cara earned the starting goalie position as a first-year and never looked back," O'Brien noted. "She's playing with a lot of confidence and we're excited to have her come back and play the way she left off last season. We are excited to see her continued growth this spring."
Midfielder Sammy Yates and attacker Catherine Klinedinst are two others who have impressed the coaching staff early on. Last season, Yates started 14 games and recorded 12 goals, two assists and 25 draw controls, while Klinedinst notched 13 points (8 g, 5 a) in nine appearances.
"After playing in a lot of games last season, we're looking for Sammy to continue to blossom on the offensive end," explained O'Brien. "Catherine was voted as the Most Improved Player by her teammates last season. This year she is continuing to show stellar improvement and we expect her to have a big impact on the attacking end."
Two others O'Brien expects to contribute to the team this season from the sophomore class are midfielder Kirby Taylor and defender Katie McCartin. Taylor registered nine points (7 g, 2 a) in seven contests as a first-year, and McCartin contributed to the Generals' nationally-ranked defense in three games.
Half of the team will consist of first-years, with 13 newcomers added to the roster this season. A successful fall gave O'Brien assurances the rookies will adjust well to the collegiate level.
"The first-years used the fall and offseason to work through their normal adjustment period," O'Brien explained. "They are learning how to meet the expectations that not only the coaches have, but what their teammates have for them as well."
The mix of first-years includes a wealth of talent with one All-American, five Academic All-Americans and multiple district and conference champions.
With great talent present on both ends of the field, O'Brien has stacked the 2013 campaign with tough opponents. Four IWLCA Preseason Top 20 teams in Catholic, Franklin & Marshall, Mary Washington and Salisbury will be on the list. Even with a competitive schedule, O'Brien aims to concentrate on the season-long performance rather than individual battles.
"We want to compete in every single game, no matter the level of the opponent," noted O'Brien. "The biggest thing we want to focus on is to stay committed to our goals and to each other throughout the entire season. If we do that, then good things will come our way."
Great focus will also be needed this season when competing in the always-improving Old Dominion Athletic Conference. While the league's coaches picked the Generals as the preseason favorite, they know that an ODAC Championship will not come easily.
"The ODAC is always a challenging slate for us, as teams keep entering the new season stronger than the last," noted O'Brien. "We are often everyone's biggest conference game. We always have to be prepared for everyone's best effort and we realize there are no rest days."
Despite the challenging season ahead, the Generals and Coach O'Brien are confident in the team's ability to get the job done. Plus, it is a momentous year for the women's lacrosse program.
"We are excited to have the chance to put an exclamation point on this season because it is the 25th Anniversary of women's lacrosse at W&L," remarked O'Brien. "What a great way to cap off a quarter century if we can achieve our goals, while constantly moving the program closer to our ultimate goal of winning a national championship."
-- www.generalssports.com --